Friday, 26 April 2013

The Big Fortified Tasting 2013: Highlights of the Tasting Room

Yesterday we told you about how the BFT masterclasses opened our eyes to how relevant fortified wine is to contemporary drinking habits, but today is all about the best and most brilliant finds on our rounds of the stalls in the main tasting hall.

There was an awful lot there - hundreds of ports, sherries, madeiras and more - which can make it quite overwhelming when you're not even sure what you like yet. We tried everything from a one-day old Fino En Rama (that's a dry sherry that's just been bottled without filtering or fining, so it's completely raw - 'en rama' means 'unbound') to a bual (a type of madeira) from the 1950s.

What stood out for us? It was the more unusual finds hidden behind all the people elbowing their way towards the most expensive/oldest samples. Here are the top picks:

Chateau de Chambert Rogomme
This was a fortified wine with a difference: it's 100% Malbec, which is something we've never seen before. It's grown near the southern French town of Cahors (a familiar name to French wine lovers) and is full of fruity, brambly, red grape character. Lovely and soft, and apparently not as new as we thought: they've been making it locally since before the French Revolution!

There's no UK stockist at the moment, but it's being represented by Liberty Wines - you can contact if you're interested in seeing the Rogomme sold in this country.

d'Arenberg The Nostalgia Rare, £12.95 at N D John
We've always loved d'Arenberg, so it's not like we went to their stall unbiased, but by this point in the afternoon we'd tried a few disappointing New World fortifieds and were growing ever-tempted to go and get a cider and sit in the sunshine instead.

This was worth sticking around for though: a 17 year old blend of grenache, mourvedre, and muscat aged in a semi-solera setting. It was sticky, rich and far more balanced than many we'd tried that afternoon, and we even asked for cheeky seconds.

De Krans Pink Port, £8.99 at

This may have been our best find of the day. Maybe it was just because our battered palates were weary of all the rich flavours, or maybe this is just an exquisite fortified fine: the De Krans Pink Port was a delicious, cherry bubblegum colour and beautifully light and easy to drink. Think raspberry ripple ice cream, boiled sweets, and juicy red cherry.

See? Fortified wines are cool.

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